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Collabwriting: How to create shareable notes on any web page - and more

This simple browser extension helps you share, organize, and collaborate on any content you find online. Here's how to get started.
Written by Jack Wallen, Contributing Writer
The Collabwriting app installed on Opera.
Jack Wallen/ZDNET

Have you ever found something online and thought, "I need to not only take notes about some of this content, but I'd like to share and collaborate with it."

For instance, say you come across a fascinating text snippet on a website that might interest not only co-workers, friends, or family, but is also something you'd like to comment on -- and allow others to do the same. That's what Collabrwriting does and it does it very well.

Also: Google just launched a faster, more efficient Chrome browser for Windows, but there's a catch

With this service, I can create topics, add snippets of text from websites to that topic, comment on the snippet, and share the snippet (via link) with anyone I choose.

Collabwriting is a browser extension that can be installed on any Chrome-based web browser. Unfortunately, Collabwriting isn't available for Firefox; therefore, if this feature sounds interesting, you'll need to try it on one of the many Chromium-based browsers (such as Chrome, Opera, Vivaldi, Edge, and -- my new favorite -- Arc).

There are three different plans for Collabwriting:

  • Personal - Includes unlimited shareable/collaborative topics, highlights, and comments; topic-level access roles; and community support. This plan is free.
  • Personal Pro - Includes everything in the Personal plan plus unlimited contributors, topic history, export to PDF and print, contributor-level access, and basic support. This plan is $10/month.
  • Team - Includes everything in Personal Pro plus three seats, workspace-level access, advanced search, and priority support. This plan is $15/month.

Once Collabwriting is installed, you can create topics and then easily add your snippets to the topics. Let me show you how it's done. 

How to create shareable notes on any web page 

What you'll need: The only thing you'll need for this is a Chromium-based web browser. That's it. Let's install and use Collabwriting. 

1. Open your browser

Installing Collabrwriting on your browser of choice is as simple as opening the browser, pointing it to the Chrome Web Store (or the Edge Add-Ons Store), clicking Install (Chrome) or Get (Edge), and OK'ing the installation.

Also: 5 ways to improve your Chrome browser's security (and why you should)

2. Log in

Once you've installed Collabwriting, you'll need to create an account. You can always do so by logging in with your Google, Microsoft, or GitHub account, or do so via an email/password. You do have to create an account to be able to use the service.

3. Open the Collabwriting Dashboard

The first thing you might want to do is create a topic. To do so, open the Collabwriting sidebar (by clicking the newly added left-pointing arrow near the top right of your browser window) and click Dashboard. 

The top portion of the Collabwriting sidebar.

The Collabwriting sidebar gives you access to everything you need.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

4. Create a new topic

From the Dashboard, click + to the right of My Topics. When the new Topic page opens, give it a name (top left corner) by replacing New Topic with the title. You can continue creating as many topics as needed. You can also add a new topic by clicking + to the right of the topic drop-down in the Collabrwriting sidebar.

The top left portion of the Collabwriting dashboard.

Creating a Collabwriting topic can be done from the Dashboard or the sidebar.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

5. Add your first Snippet

It's now time to add your first Snippet to a topic. To do that, find a web page that includes the text you want to add. Open the Collabwriring sidebar, click the topic drop-down at the top, and select the topic that will house the Snippet. Once you've selected topic, go to the page you've navigated to and highlight the block of text you want to add. This will automatically add the text to the Snippet. When you're satisfied, either hit Enter on your keyboard, or click Create at the bottom right of the snippet. You can also add comments to the Snippet or click Locate to open the page from which the Snippet was found.

Also: Why I love Arc browser's Shared Folders - and how they work

A Snippet added to Collabwriting.

Adding a Snippet from one of my ZDNET articles to Collabwriting.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

6. Share the Snippet

Once you've saved the Snippet, you'll see a link at the bottom of the side panel. Click the link to copy it to your clipboard. You can then share that link to anyone who has Collabwriting installed and an account (either free or paid). Those collaborators can then comment on the Snippet and locate the source page. The only caveat on the free account is that you can't add descriptions or control access to the Snippets. With a paid account, you can limit access to restricted or anyone with the link.

A sample Snippet link ready to share.

If you click on the Share icon, it will open the Collabwriting sidebar, which you'd need a paid account to use for sharing.

Screenshot by Jack Wallen/ZDNET

It might take you a while to get what Collabwriting is all about but once you do, you'll see that this tool can be pretty helpful. And with a free account option, you're not out anything if it winds up not being a fit.

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